Portage, Indiana is a small city on the shores of Lake Michigan, roughly an hour southeast of Chicago. It’s home to nearly 10,000 families, and this week we’re paying tribute to a Portage family of our own: over the next few months, three Pizza Hut team members are retiring after more than 20 years of service to the Pizza Hut brand. Sam Field, Lori Falck, and Nancy McKay have been friends since beginning their careers at Pizza Hut in early 90s. As they prepare for a bittersweet goodbye to their teammates, we sat down with the group to reflect on their long careers.
Nancy McKay was hired in 1980 as a server, after moving to Portage with her husband and two small children a year earlier. As she tells it, “I was bored at home and decided to look for a job. Pizza Hut was hiring and so I applied as a server and got hired.” She worked as a server for five or six years before being promoted to a Shift Manager, a position she held for another seven years before being tapped to become an Assistant Manager. “I liked that Pizza Hut was good about working with my schedule and flexible about my hours, since I had a family to take care of. Pizza Hut makes it easy to work for this company. They really want you here.” While working as an Assistant Manager, Nancy would always find herself out in the dining room talking to guests. Realizing that she really enjoyed talking to customers, she went back to being a server and has been happy ever since.
Sam Field actually had an entire career in the military before joining the Pizza Hut team. Sam says he saw a sign in a window saying that Pizza Hut was looking for drivers. It was as simple as walking in, filling out an application, and talking to the manager for a few minutes. That same day he was hired as a delivery driver and has been delivering pizzas to hungry customers for about 22 years. As Sam puts it, “The military can be stressful. When I came to Pizza Hut, the people were SO nice. All the managers, team members, employees were so great. We all got along. I loved being on the road every day. The managers here are so fantastic; they respect us, we’ve never had any quarrels the whole time I’ve been here.” What’s not to like?
Lori Falck recalls that her journey with Pizza Hut started as she was just trying to make ends meet. “I was getting unemployment in 1990, and I picked Pizza Hut because it was close to home. I was a cook at first, but I moved up to shift manager in 1995, and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.” The first Pizza Hut restaurant she managed was close to her kids’ elementary school, but she recalls thinking that when they reached middle school—and were farther away—she would find something else. “It didn’t happen that way. I was really comfortable at Pizza Hut. I liked the people that I was working with, so I kept with it.” She kept with it long enough to open the newest Pizza Hut restaurant with Sam and Nancy, beginning a friendship that leads us to today.
Like Sam, Nancy’s reasons for sticking with Pizza Hut seem pretty straightforward: it’s about trust and respect. “I’ve talked to others who have tried to manage a job and all the other things that life throws your way—it can be a tough balance to find. Pizza Hut makes it really easy. They really RESPECT you here. They come to us for advice and they listen to what our ideas are. The Area Coach comes by and asks us what Pizza Hut could do better. I don’t know too many companies that actually do that. I think that tells you a lot about that company. They really listen to what you have to say.”
Lori agrees with this assessment. She says she’s appreciated the commitment her managers have to helping her learn. “No one threw me into anything without training. After being here for 20+ years, you meet a lot of coaches and managers, and all of them have been great.” Lori says she’s also grateful for the friendship of Sam and Nancy. “We’re like a family. We make a good team.” Nancy was invited to Sam’s wedding in 1993.
When I ask them to sum up their careers, the group is momentarily silent. It’s a lot to try to explain in just one word or phrase. Nancy goes with “privileged.” She explains, “I was privileged to be able to work for a company that I know will always be there.”
Sam’s choice is “blessed: I’m so blessed to work with a fine organization and fine people. To be this lucky for this long has really been a blessing.”
Lori says she can’t sum it up in just one word. “I’ve enjoyed it. I come to work every day and look forward to every day. I imagine I’m going to get pretty bored in retirement!”
Each of them say that they’ll stay in touch with the team members and managers they consider their “work family”—not to mention each other. We’ll be the first to say that Pizza Hut has been privileged and blessed to have Nancy, Sam, and Lori stay with us for the majority of their careers—and we’ve very much enjoyed their company!